How to Identify Dangerous Asbestos Installation

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral mined and used in building materials for more than 100 years. It was widely used because of its heat resistance, water repellent nature, and affordability. Chances are that you are also considering using it for building your own house. However, it has been discovered that asbestos can cause serious health risks.

The most common disease caused by asbestos fibers is lung cancer called Mesothelioma, which affects the lungs or abdomen lining. Although there are many countries where it is banned from use completely, you may find some buildings with this material installed even today.

That’s why we have compiled an exclusive guide on identifying dangerous asbestos installations so that you remain safe at all times if your house happens to be built with these harmful chemicals. Let’s get started!

Why Asbestos Insulation is Dangerous

Yes, prolonged exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious respiratory illness and cancer called Mesothelioma. When disturbed, tiny abrasive asbestos fibers can be inhaled. In homes built before 1975, asbestos is most commonly found as thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes.

When is Asbestos in a Home Dangerous?

The material in good condition will not release asbestos fibers, but when disturbed, it may create a health hazard where none existed before. Asbestos becomes dangerous if it has been damaged over time. The ones that crumble easily if handled can release asbestos fibers and create a health hazard.

Types of Asbestos Insulation

Loose Fill Insulation

Loose fill insulation is made of asbestos. The particles may be very small and do not feel gritty to the touch. This type of insulation was found in older homes before the 1980s. Loose-fill insulation comes in various materials and is easy to identify, thanks to its loose, lumpy form and fluffy or granular texture.

It doesn’t have paper or other types of backing like batt, and blanket insulation does. After determining if your attic insulation or the wall has loose insulation, you also need to determine which type of material it is because some types may contain asbestos.

Vermiculite Insulation

This type of loose-fill material was often used in attics and walls of older homes before the 1980s. When you contact a professional for an asbestos inspection, they’ll check for this type of insulation by looking at your home’s construction records or telling you what got installed in your home when it was built.

Vermiculite Insulation
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Vermiculite loose-fill insulation is one of the most common household materials that contain asbestos. It has a pebble-like appearance and typically is a grayish-brown and silvery-gold color. It’s made from a natural mineral material that can release tiny fibers when processed and handled.

In the United States, most vermiculite insulation containing asbestos was sourced from a mine near Libby, Montana which was active until 1990. And because the LIbby mine closed in 1990, houses built before that date might have asbestos containing insulation.

Cellulose Insulation

If you have a loose-fill insulation that is gray, soft, and without a shine, then it’s cellulose insulation. Cellulose insulation contains a high percentage of recycled paper and doesn’t contain minerals. It looks like shredded gray paper. It’s a perfectly safe type of insulation that is commonly blown into attics. It also comes in batt and blanket forms.

Cellulose Insulation
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Loose-Fill Fiberglass Insulation

Fiberglass fill is a popular choice for homes. It’s also one of the safest types of insulation to get installed in your home. The main problem with fiberglass insulation is that it can irritate skin and cause respiratory problems if it isn’t installed correctly or if there are loose fibers from the previous installation that have been left at the site of the installation.

Loose-Fill Fiberglass Insulation
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And because it’s a glass product, fiberglass has a slight shine when subjected to bright light. It’s very soft, almost like cotton candy, and is composed of very fine fibers.

Rock Wool Insulation

Also known as mineral wool, rock wool is another popular insulation product. It also comes in two different forms, either as loose fill or batts. The materials are similar to fiberglass, except that rock wool fibers are much larger and therefore more difficult for the body to breathe into it. It has a fibrous, soft, cottony texture.

Rock wool is usually gray, white, off-white, and brownish white. It’s a manufactured product made by melting basaltic rock. The raw materials get exposed to temperatures up to 2750 degrees Fahrenheit, making them melt, then fibers are spun from the molten material.

Blanket Insulation

Blanket insulation is manufactured from rock, slag, or cinders. It’s lightweight and fibrous. It’s either in the form of batts or large rolls and looks like a big, cotton-like blanket. It’s flexible and is often used on attics and walls.

Inhalation of rock wool or blanket insulation material may result in a variety of health problems, including lung disease, cancer, and asbestosis. Therefore, it is important to install these materials using proper protective gear and methods.

Block Insulation

These are rigid panels manufactured from the same material that is used to make concrete. It can be found in either pre-formed or bagged blocks and comes in a variety of thicknesses. The most common type of block insulation is cement fiber. It’s lightweight, easy to cut, and looks like a grayish-white sponge.

It is not amenable to cutting with a rotary saw, so it has to be ground down before it can be installed into the wall cavities or floor of your home.

How to Identify Asbestos Insulation

According to research, there’s no safe level for asbestos exposure. Therefore, if you discover insulation in your home that may contain toxic material, don’t remove or inspect it yourself. If you suspect the area is contaminated with asbestos, call a professional. If you find asbestos in your ceiling, floor tiles, and anywhere else in your home, get the sample tested by a professional lab.

Call for an Inspection First

Before you call an asbestos abatement contractor, you should contact an industrial hygiene firm to inspect the affected area. A proper assessment should include a complete visual examination and careful collection and analysis of samples.

If there’s asbestos, the inspector should provide a written evaluation describing its location and extent of damage and provide recommendations for correction and prevention.

Contact an Asbestos Abatement Contractor

Before the work begins, get a written contract specifying the work plan, procedures, and time frames. The agreement should also specify what happens if the work is delayed, who will pay for future inspections.

And whether you will be charged for other services such as cleanup, applicable federal and local regulations, which the contractor must follow. You can contact your state, local agency responsible for asbestos regulations, Environmental Protection Agency, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regional office.

Removal of Asbestos

If you decide to remove the asbestos or asbestos repair, ensure that the contractor gets written assurance that you are getting exactly what is on the label. There should be a label specifying the type of asbestos, where it’s located, and how much has been removed.

Repairing Asbestos


Sealing treats the material with a sealant that binds the asbestos fibers and coats the material, so fibers are not released. You can repair a pipe, furnace, and boiler insulation this way. 


Covering involves placing a protective wrap and jacket around the material to prevent burning and wear. Covering is used for asbestos-cement pipe insulation, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, and other materials that aren’t damaged if left in place. Only a professional trained to handle asbestos safely should undertake these repairs.

FAQs about How to Identify Dangerous Asbestos Installation

How do you test for the presence of asbestos?

Use asbestos testing kits which work in a two-step process. After purchasing a low-cost kit at a home improvement center, you obtain suspected asbestos from an area of your home. After that, mail your findings to the laboratory, and the results will be sent to you after a few days.

Final Thought on How to Identify Dangerous Asbestos Installation

As you can see, dealing with asbestos requires the use of a special kit. Asbestos testing kits are available through home improvement centers and other outlets, or you can contact an asbestos abatement professional. If handled correctly, you can prevent asbestos from causing a problem in your home.


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Victoria Grant